Holocaust Survivor and Nazi Descendant Share Stage at Synagogue

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Congregation Beth Yeshurun hosts Holocaust Survivor and Nazi Descendant who will both be taking part in the fifth annual March of Remembrance, taking place in five different communities across the greater Houston area.

Congregation Beth Yeshurun held a special event to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring guest speakers with very different ties to the Holocaust, ties that in both cases too often go unmentioned. Riki Roussos, a Holocaust survivor from Yugoslavia recounted her experiences as a teenager, while Dr. Franziska Eckert, a third generation descendant of a Nazi SS instructor, spoke on the discovery of her family’s secret
past and expressed remorse for the war atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

Riki grew up in the state formerly known as Yugoslavia before World War II. In October 1941, SS soldiers came in the middle of the night and took her father and eighteen-year-old brother.

Riki made many attempts to evade Axis powers over the next year, including leaping from a moving train to elude Italian fascist officers and changing her name. However, in early 1943 she was sent to the Rab Island concentration camp in the Adriatic Sea. After escaping the island later that year, she made her way back into Yugoslavia only to discover her father and brother had been murdered at the Jasenovac concentration camp.

Her story conveyed the pain she felt for the loss of her family, and the resolve she possesses to speak out about these atrocities so the world will not endure another Holocaust.

Franziska’s grandfather was a member of an SS elite troop involved in actions in the Ukraine, and was a leading instructor of an SS training camp near Prague. Franziska recounted that after learning of her grandfather’s past, she “had to come to terms with [herself] that [her] grandfather was a mass murderer.” She softly added, “the things we found broke our hearts.”

The Ukraine had no extermination camps; SS troops rounded-up all Jews in every village and city, marched them into the woods, and made them dig their own graves before they were shot one-by-one. The troops would then cover them with dirt and walk away. Franziska explained to everyone gathered, “There were eyewitness accounts that two days later the ground still moved because people were trying to crawl out.”

Franziska is not the only one in her home town of Tubingen, Germany, with similar ties to the Holocaust. After her home church discovered there were previously unknown concentration camps just outside of the town where they grew up, they started the March of Life, a prayer walk that would span the entire length of the paths travelled by Jews in the Death Marches.

Over three hundred individuals attended the prayer walk, including Holocaust survivors and Jewish people from the United States.

Franziska and the members of the prayer walk knew they could not stop with just one march. Each year they continued to grow in support, marching through different parts of Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and Austria. The March of Life spread to the United States through its daughter organization, The March of Remembrance.

About March of Remembrance Houston

The March of Remembrance is an organization that strives to embrace the past of people around the world who have been impacted by the atrocities of the Holocaust and to give voice to those who were silenced in World War II.

The organization seeks to honor Holocaust survivors and their families, educate the public about the reality of the Holocaust, remember the tragic consequences of silence, and engage people in battling indifference and prejudice in the face of rising global anti-Semitism.

The 2016 March of Remembrance Houston in Galveston, presented by Texas A&M University at Galveston and Professor David Lawhon, will be held on Saturday, April 16th. The memorial service will begin at Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 2216 Ball Street, Galveston, TX 77550, followed by a prayer walk down the center of Strand Street to Pier 21, 2100 Harborside, Galveston, TX 77550.

For more information on this march and others in the Houston area, visit


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Cris Franklin
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